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Gobble, gobble: Appetizing ideas served at fest

Four friends including Jane Glyzwski St. Charles Joyce Sprau BataviMelanie Hesenflow Lily Lake JoannMroz Elburn (left right ) share laugh

Four friends including Jane Glyzwski, of St. Charles, Joyce Sprau, of Batavia, Melanie Hesenflow, of Lily Lake, and Joanna Mroz, of Elburn (left to right ), share a laugh, good food and drinks at the first-ever Food and Wine Fest, on Saturday, November 17, 2012, in St. Charles. The event featured local wineries, craft beers and TV food-related celebrities and chefs. | Michele du Vair~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 20, 2012 6:10AM

ST. CHARLES — November. Chicago. Braised meat. You can’t beat it.

That’s how Steve LaPino, manager of Glen Prairie in Glen Ellyn, summed up the goings-on over the weekend at the first Chicago Food and Wine Festival at Pheasant Run, particularly what his restaurant was offering.

That would be a sample plate of braised beef short ribs served on a bed of whipped sweet potatoes flavored with brown sugar, salt, pepper, butter and cinnamon.

Which is to say the fest was a good place not only to give your belly a pre-Thanksgiving workout, but also was where to get ideas for what to serve for the holiday — perhaps even ordering it from one of the restaurants or caterers present (not to mention taking credit for the dishes yourself, if you are both ethically and culinarily challenged).

“And 95 percent of what’s on our menu is gluten free,” LaPino said, lest you or your fellow diners have dietary issues tied to the protein found in some grains.

To that end, even the back of the business card for McHenry-based Two Fats Guys Barbecue Sauce touted its lack of gluten in its products.

Other seasonally fitting palate pleasers included a butternut squash soup from Adelle’s in Wheaton; roasted pumpkin bisque shooters and blackened beef au poivre from Lisle caterers Chef by Request; and, from The Bank in Wheaton, pig and fig appetizers made with pork pate.

The Bank’s chef, Patrick Cassata — who has been featured on TV’s “Hell’s Kitchen” — was among those giving cooking demonstrations Saturday that were emceed by Ted Brunson, host of WGN-TV’s foodie show “Chicago’s Best.”

Fest organizer Scott Hardesty said he met Brunson this summer at the Taste of Chicago, along with Mark DeCarlo, the comic man about town from WLS-TV’s “Windy City Live” who also was at the event signing copies of his book, “A Fork On The Road.”

New media was represented by “Naner A Day” and “Chicago Now” blogger Katy Vodicka who, promised to post her impressions of the event. And Debbie Donato of Naperville and Debbie Does Home Entertaining was there looking for potential subjects for a reality-based show she intends to host that will document people’s parties.

Beverage ideas

The liquid side of the event included 90+ Cellars, a Boston-based online business that re-labels highly rated wines from respected vineyards in order to sell them at big discounts while allowing the winemakers to reduce inventory without having to cut price points themselves.

More virtual eating and drinking vendors included the mysterious Cellar Angels, a Chicago-based online wine club that offers weekly promotions to its members; and the Emporium of Balsamic, a northwest Indiana-based company that offers traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena, including a small bottle of 25-year-old “Extra Vecchio,” which it sells for $199.

Local favorites on hand included McNally’s Traditional Irish Pub of St. Charles, which had mini corned beef and cheese melts (but no Guinness); Two Brothers Brewing Co. of Warrenville, which has prosciutto with tangerine hors d’oeuvres; Heavy Handed IPA on tap; and an array of T-shirts decorated to hawk its various beers.

If you wanted a more potent potable, Jimmy Luv’s Bloody Marys of Milwaukee had spicy mixers with accompanying mini-salad bar to load into the beverage; and Chinn’s 34th Street Fishery in Lisle served mai tais for washing down small crab claws, shrimp or even key lime pie.

If you were looking for something to consider serving for the Mayan apocalypse Dec. 21, samples of Anheuser Busch-brand Shock Top’s End of the World Midnight Wheat were available for your consideration.

For Dec. 25, the All Wined Up Wine Shop & Tasting Bar of Clarendon Hills was suggesting $25 wine bottles covered in white chocolate peppermint bark.

And if it seemed like the event had everything but the kitchen sink (including knives, pots and pans available for sale), well, Mary Higgins was there with model set-ups from Lombard-based Bath Fitter One-Day Bath Remodeling.

In the spirit of the goings-on, though, Higgins offered her own tip for serving stuffing come Thanksgiving.

“You cook it in a small pumpkin, then cut the pumpkin horizontally to serve,” Higgins said.

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